French prosecutors have opened a preliminary investigation to examine syringes belonging to teams at this year's Tour de France. The Public Prosecutor in Paris opened the case after a number of suspicious syringes were discovered in containers given by Tour organisers to all the teams in order to collect their medical waste.
According to L'Equipe the focus of the investigation is on syringes found in the Astana team's medical waste, although Astana strenuously deny the allegation. In a statement issued on Tuesday the team said:
"Astana Cycling Team has nothing to hide, (its) riders use no forbidden substances, the team is confident in the result of analyses performed or to be performed by a Parisian laboratory and is prepared to cooperate."
Despite L'Equipe's claim the public prosecutor has not specified that any one team is the focus of their investigation. A spokewoman simply confirmed that a preliminary investigation was taking place and that experts were trying to determine whether it would be possible to get samples of illegal substances and DNA which could be linked to a rider.
There is as yet no explanation of why it took officials until now to become suspicious and if Astana are the centre of the investigation why attention was drawn to their medical waste rather than that from other teams competing in the race.
Nor, despite repeated media requests, has their been any comment from the lab which is said to be running the tests. There is also the rather obvious question of why a team with something to hide would give syringes to race organisers in the full knowledge that they were likely to be tested. The lab in question, Toxlab, is is not one normally used in anti-doping cases but specialises in forensic investigations.
Astana had two riders on the podium at this year's Tour, the winner, Alberto Contador, and Lance Armstrong who came third, both will be in Paris tomorrow for the launch of the 2010 Tour route, the latter representing his new Radioshack team. Armstrong responded to the allegations with on Twitter with "SSDD" – Same Shit Different Day before inviting cyclists in Miami to join him for a ride.
Last week the French Anti Doping Agency (AFLD) revealed that it had found drugs for high blood pressure and diabetes amongst some of the teams possessions which while not banned were unusual as part of the medical regimes of supposedly fit athletes. AFLD boss Pierre Bordry also said that in his opinion riders had been using two new drugs, a third generation EPO – Hematide, and another drug called Aicur at this year's race. The AFLD also accused cycling's governing body, the UCI of showing favouritism to Astana when it came to drug testing at the race.
Plucked from the obscurity of his London commute back in the mid-Nineties to live in Bath and edit bike mags our man made the jump to the interweb back in 2006 as launch editor of a large cycling website somewhat confusingly named after a piece of navigational equipment. He came up with the idea for road.cc mainly to avoid being told what to do… Oh dear, issues there then. Tony tries to ride his bike every day and if he doesn't he gets grumpy, he likes carbon, but owns steel, and wants titanium. When not on his bike or eating cake Tony spends his time looking for new ways to annoy the road.cc team. He's remarkably good at it.